Tuesday Re-mix –
“What should we do then?” the crowd asked. John answered, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.” Tax collectors also came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?” “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them. Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.” Luke 3:8-14 [selections]
John the Baptist was given the assignment of preparing a people to receive a savior. God would use John to help the people see that, beyond a political hero, what they needed most was a spiritual savior. So, in fulfillment of this calling, what do you suppose are the first words out of his mouth in issuance of this “wake-up call”?
That’s just mean. Right? Those words are just harsh. But they seem to have gotten the people’s attention. It wasn’t long before they were asking John, “What do we need to do?” He then started rattling off impossibly inflexible rules for them…bad conduct that was the most deeply ingrained in their culture, things it would have been extremely difficult to change. It would have required a huge shift in how they thought about other people. It would have caused them to think, “Wow, that’s nearly impossible!” And that, of course, is exactly the right response. John would have said, “And THAT is why you need a savior!”
So, it got me thinking. If John were to come to the church today in order to get us ready for Jesus to return, what would he say to us? Assuming we too are a “brood of vipers” and in desperate need of a savior and assuming we need an entirely different way of thinking about some things we are doing (or failing to do), what might he say to us? Let’s write an addendum to this story. The next line reads:
Then some 21st century churches asked him, “What about us? What must we do?” John replied…
What? How would he reply? I have some possible responses.
1. Stop making outsiders feel like they have to clean up their acts before they come to your church. We’re all pretty good at befriending people after they have become Christ-followers (pretty good, but not great). Why is it so difficult for the church to befriend people before they actually believe?
2. Stop using your faith to gain political power. The Christian faith was not born out of political strength and has always grown strongest under political oppression. Why, then, do we spend so much time trying to gain the political upper hand?
3. Start praying together as if you really do believe it will work. We say we want prayer in schools. We say we want prayer at football games. But our churches’ scheduled prayer meetings have tumbleweeds blowing through them. We say we believe in the power of prayer, but our actions and our lifestyles say otherwise.
4. Start looking for and finding Christ in one another. The way we treat each other in the church is sometimes just embarrassing, and it is offensive to the Spirit of God Who indwells every believer.
5. Stop using your resources to build kingdoms unto yourselves. Across the street from your big, new beautiful worship center, there are people starving and homeless. What are we thinking?
From my perspective, these are some possible ways for our friend John to respond. But I’ll bet you have some ideas too. I’d love to hear them…